Synod affirms that the Scriptures and confessions teach the doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone and that nothing that is taught under the rubric of covenant theology in our churches may contradict this fundamental doctrine. Therefore Synod rejects the errors of those:
- Who deny or modify the teaching that “God created man good and after His own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness,”” able to perform “the commandment of life” as the representative of mankind (HC 6, 9; BC 14);
- Who, in any way and for any reason, confuse the “commandment of life” given before the fall with the gospel announced after the fall (BC 14, 17, 18; HC 19, 21, 56, 60);
- Who confuse the ground and instrument of acceptance with God before the fall (obedience to the commandment of life) with the ground (Christ who kept the commandment of life) and instrument (faith in Christ) of acceptance with God after the fall;
- Who deny that Christ earned acceptance with God and that all His merits have been imputed to believers (BC 19, 20, 22, 26; HC 11-19, 21, 36-37, 60, 84; CD I.7, RE I.3, RE II.1);
- Who teach that a person can be historically, conditionally elect, regenerated, savingly united to Christ, justified, and adopted by virtue of participation in the outward administration of the covenant of grace but may lose these benefits through lack of covenantal faithfulness (CD, I, V);
- Who teach that all baptized persons are in the covenant of grace in precisely the same way such that there is no distinction between those who have only an outward relation to the covenant of grace by baptism and those who are united to Christ by grace alone through faith alone (HC 21, 60; BC 29);
- Who teach that Spirit-wrought sanctity, human works, or cooperation with grace is any part either of the ground of our righteousness before God or any part of faith, that is, the “instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness” (BC 22-24; HC 21, 60, 86);
- Who define faith, in the act of justification, as being anything more than “leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified” or “a certain knowledge” of and “a hearty trust” in Christ and His obedience and death for the elect (BC 23; HC 21);
- Who teach that there is a separate and final justification grounded partly upon righteousness or sanctity inherent in the Christian (HC 52; BC 37).
An excellent refutation of the errors of the Federal Visionists!
And surely this is the gospel clearly preached by the apostles, the Lord’s chosen witnesses to the truth. Surely this is the gospel of our glorious martyrs, against whose faithful witness Satan has historically raged. And yet we have men of renown today, occupying places of prominence, and whose books are read by many, again sowing the semi-pelagian seed in protestantism. Prideful human self-assertion is a pernicious weed in all our hearts!
The final answer is that in all things, including salvation, God has claimed for Himself ALL the glory, and forbidden man any.
Here’s the irony: Some Federal Visionists seem to rail against historic Reformed orthodoxy as a “Lutheranized” distortion of the Reformed Faith. Yet certain elements of Federal Visionism seem to have clear affinities with certain elements of Lutheran soteriology.
For example, confessional Lutheranism affirms human total depravity (including the bondage of the human will) and sovereign predestination (although they inconsistently reject double predestination as a rationalistic doctrine and put in its place a doctrine of single predestination so as to preserve their belief in God’s universal salvific will). In that sense Lutheran doctrine stands against Arminianism and Finney-ish revivalism with its decisionalism and emphasis on human free will; thus it is monergistic (though inconsistently so).
However, confessional Lutheranism also affirms a doctrine of universal atonement, rejects irresistible grace, teaches a head-for-head doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and teaches that a true believer may fully and finally fall away from the faith and thus lose his salvation (i.e., justification is not a once-for-all, irreversible, unlosable declaration of God, but one may go in and out of a state of justification). Only by one’s own penitent faith, made possible by a preserving grace of God which is nonetheless resistible and thus (in many cases) non-efficacious, can one maintain oneself in a state of justification.
While the FV advocates decry historic Reformed orthodoxy as a “Lutheranized” distortion, it is actually they who are guilty of “Lutheranizing” Reformed soteriology through their misappropriation of such Lutheranesque doctrines as: head-for-head baptismal regeneration; a “historic” election and justification which are losable; a belief that those who are, in a sense, true believers may fall away and lose salvation; perseverance and “final justification” dependent upon the believer’s “covenant faithfulness”; etc.
Who, then, is more guilty of “Lutheranizing” the Reformed Faith?